web analytics
January 27, 2015 / 7 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


The ‘Maharat’: Wonderful Achievement, Bad Idea

the title rabbi (or its equivalent) is more than about recognition of achievement.

Maharat

When I was a young man around the time I was studying for semicha at the Hebrew Theological College, I had written article in a now defunct local Jewish magazine, the Sentinel. It was in response to a scathing attack against the idea of ordaining women by a prominent rosh yeshiva (yeshiva dean).

I explained that the title rabbi stems from the word “rebbe” which literally means teacher. As such there was nothing wrong with calling a woman educated to teach Judaism with that title. That was over 40 years ago. Some would say that I was ahead of my time.

But I was wrong and regret writing it. I was wrong because in my impetuous youth I did not understand what I understand today, that something which is not a black and white issur (prohibition) does not necessarily make it a good idea to pursue. Nor did I understand that breaking with tradition can open a Pandora’s box that will be counter-productive to our future.

The truth is that there are Halachic issues with female rabbis. I’ve discussed them before in essays where I argued against the ordination of women. It is not that I am a misogynist. I personally have no problem with female rabbis. But I would not have any problem counting women into Minyan either. Except that Halacha does not allow me to do that. There are Halachic issues with respect to female rabbis too. Like serara. While I have no personal problem with it, I have a Halachic problem with it. Women are forbidden by Halacha to take positions of leadership in certain Jewish areas. Like Shuls.

I had also argued in the past that even though women can serve in other areas the way rabbis do (e.g., teachers) the primary and historic function of a rabbi has always been in a shul as a pulpit rabbi. Leaving aside the issue of serara it is highly impractical and awkward for a woman to be the rabbi of a shul.

The primary function of a shul is prayer – doing so with a minyan. A woman may not be counted into a minyan and may not be present in the actual sanctuary of a shul with the men unless she is separated by a mechitza (partition). While a rabbi can have a position outside of the actual area of prayer – like in a classroom or as a principal or a pastoral marriage counselor, that has always been a secondary role. Even though there are ways where a woman can technically lead from ‘behind the mechitza’ and address the members with a D’var Torah from a podium after the service… I think it is safe to say that this is a highly impractical way for a spiritual leader of a shul to function.

There are also perception issues. When an Orthodox Shul lists a woman as a rabbi a public unfamiliar with the nuances of Halacha on this issue can make the mistaken assumption that the Shul has broken with Halacha.

So while there may be ways to skirt the Halacha and technically not violate it – it isn’t pretty… and in my view undermines the spirit if not the letter of the law. What is gained on some sort of equal rights way is lost by the radical departure from normative Orthodoxy.

Which is the reason I agree with the Rabbinical Council of Amercia (RCA) position on the recent graduation of three women clergy from Yeshivat Maharat. They have rejected it. In an article in the Forward RCA President Rabbi Shmuel Goldin explained it as a violation of our Mesorah – tradition:

“We feel extremely strongly that there is certainly room for women leadership within the Orthodox community, both educationally and professionally,” RCA President Rabbi Shmuel Goldin told the Forward. “We do not believe, however, that it is appropriate for women to be ordained as rabbis.”

Goldin added that he did not think the school was defying the Orthodox community but rather was “moving in ways that are removing it from the normative Orthodox community. It’s not a question of defiance, it’s a question of direction.”

I completely agree. Calling a woman a “maharat” instead of rabbi is an irrelevant distinction. A spiritual leader, a maharat, and a rabbi are all the same thing. That Yeshivat Maharat founder Rabbi Avi Weiss gave in to pressure- promising not to call his graduates rabba (his feminization of the word rabbi) is really a meaningless gesture. With apologies to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – a rose by any other name is still a rose.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “The ‘Maharat’: Wonderful Achievement, Bad Idea”

  1. Myriam Obadia says:

    Not I would ever want to be a Rabbi (or even a Maharat), but you haven't convinced me that your reasoning is sound in the matter. It seems to me that you rely on sophistry more than on logic.

  2. David Willig says:

    What about if we called them CHAPLAINS. If they were allowed to serve in Hospitals, nursing homes and the ARMY. Why is it that Rebbetzins can do all sorts of things that learned woman, who are not married to Rabbis, are not allowed to do.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
Current Top Story
facebook madness
UPDATE: Social Media Sites Back Up Worldwide – Global Productivity Drops
Latest Blogs Stories
Auschwitz Entrance

How do we make sure the Holocaust is relevant to new generations?

Brutal evacuation of Amona

In 2006, Amona kids saw their teachers and rabbis being thrown from windows as if they were garbage

Photo posted on Fatah Facebook page, removed Jan.3, 2015.

No money should go to terrorists or their families; anyone involved in terror must pay the price

kiruv-shafran

Responsible Jewish outreach encourages BTs to retain and to enhance their relationship with parents

Israelis will vote for Likud because of Caroline Glick, but she’ll just be Right window dressing.

What are the dynamics of running a family business and what are its impact on family relationships?

The Hareidi paper HaMevaser wanted to have their cake and eat it too: use the photo; lose the women

Producer Chuck Wang explains how you can learn from mistakes and move on towards success.

Chareidi women who want to run for political office don’t suit the full definition of “chareidi.”

France inviting Abbas to the “anti-terror rally” makes me doubt it takes Muslim terrorism seriously

How could a Jewish family hide on the 3rd floor of a hotel where the Germans were on the 1st floor?

No Charedi leader has suggested a change that would make a difference to a failing paradigm

What is the “rookie mindset” and what can new trainees offer to the workplace?

And now for MORE Muslim musings-Go Ask Ayman-

This terror won’t respond to reason or logic. It must be hunted down. Destroyed. No trial/No talking

Israel as the Jewish State insures freedom of worship and security of Jews here and around the world

More Articles from Harry Maryles
kiruv-shafran

Responsible Jewish outreach encourages BTs to retain and to enhance their relationship with parents

Paris anti-terror march

The Hareidi paper HaMevaser wanted to have their cake and eat it too: use the photo; lose the women

No Charedi leader has suggested a change that would make a difference to a failing paradigm

The average Israeli may not fulfill all mitzvos but shops at the mitzvah “store” regularly

The rally tells me that the recent anti-Semitism in France isn’t representative of mainstream France

{Originally posted to author’s website, Emes Ve-Emunah} So now there is DNA testing. This is the point made in a Yated article (republished in Maztav) in its crusade to change New York City’s Board of Health requirement of informed consent – warning parents of the dangers of Metzitza B’Peh (MbP). From Matzav: This extraordinary program […]

12 months ago, 27 year old US Army Sgt Jordan Adams suffered a traumatic brain injury

{Originally posted to author’s website, Emes Ve-Emunah} I’ve have many times expressed my opposition here to the procedure known as Metzitza B’Peh (MbP). This involves direct oral suction of blood from the circumcision wound. I am opposed because it unnecessarily endangers the child when a Mohel has the herpes virus in the early stages and […]

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/the-maharat-wonderful-achievement-bad-idea/2013/05/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: